Sunday, April 30, 2006

Moms can fix everything!

So I got to make that phone-call to my parents finally, and just talking to my mom for an hour was absolute therapy! It had been a busy, exhausting week and I guess I was just tired. We chatted about my life, my friends, stuff going on back home, it was a welcome distraction from my little world-view of "my experiment is not working". She told me what I was doing wrong that my plants were not growing well, and she told me what I was doing wrong that I was not sleeping well, and therefore, why my experiments were not working. Hah! Half way through the call, I'd forgotten that I was supposed to be "sick", as I found myself getting into excited discussions with my mom over how she was spoiling my little cousin there.
Eventually, mom went into "mom" mode, telling me to eat right, asking me what i ate, whether i was drinking enough water...uhhhhh......it was that time when i had to start making up answers about what vegetables were in my fridge, etc. ;) Finally, when "mom" mode became "nag" mode, it signalled tata time. So i began finding a way to end the phone call, and mom has this real adorable habit of always having to say ten more things after good-byes have been said on the phone. So after the good-bye, haan haan i will call next week, ya ya i am drinking water right now, .....{siiigh} BYE, I felt guilty enough to actually cook up some healthy food, and eat it, and was already feeling a lot better. I re-potted my plants and changed their position, and this morning they look happier already! I had a nice, good night's sleep, and have thought up a few ways to tackle that stubborn experiment..

Man, who knew one phone call could cure it all??

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Home, sick

I've got to be sick- what else can explain waking up at 7 AM on a Saturday morning? So after making my daily cuppa I decided to call home. Boy, my parents would be amazed too, I'm calling way earlier than my usual time. Well, I guess they would've never expected me to, they don't seem to be home. Everytime i try to call my parents and don't find them, i feel this displaced sense of being wronged. Like "where did they go? when I was trying to call? when I wanted to talk to them??". As if they have no life and are sitting by the phone waiting for my call....:-)
A cousin once mentioned to me, that after spending 5 years abroad, I should've gotten over home-sickness. But do we ever? If anything, it's gotten worse. And i don't mean i sulk and brood all the time, I don't. I quite enjoy most things this country has to offer..and my life, friends, and my independence here. But the home-sickness is a subtle under-current. That flares up on all kinds of extreme ocassions..and then leaves me feeling a tad blue. Usually I don't dwell on it, just snap out of it and move on. I guess that is something the five years away has taught me. But the feeling never does go away completely.
Like right now. So i'm going to call my parents again , and they better be around at home, nahi to they'll have to do some explaining...hmph.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Shut up

Imho, "shut up" is a very handy phrase that is not used often enough. Instead, we use much less relevant expressions like "you're kidding, right," or "re-ally??" Or we just smile, silently, gritting teeth beneath. Like when someone is unabashedly boasting about the twenty-six features of their new car, and you're not really interested. When someone is trying too hard to be smart and mouths absolute crap while trying to sound all-knowing. When someone is being overly patronising, or presumptuous and nosy about your life. When someone is needlessly droning on, telling you what they think about the world, or about the shirt you're wearing, and you couldn't, really, care less.
I wish we could do away with the niceities and just say "Shut up".

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The great Indian nod

The other day, my supervisor and I were recollecting a day we both were having an animated discussion about something. Gradually we were both getting louder and more emphatic about our individual p.o.vs (points of view). When we actually bothered to listen to each other, I found myself saying "THAT is exactly what I am saying!!". Turned out we were actually both on the same side. There was no need to argue! So she went "well, you kept nodding "no , no" against what i was saying..so i didn't think you agreed with me".

Those were the days. when I was new here, FOB, as they say. (Fresh Off the Boat ;)) Now I just stick to email when i've to communicate important opinions or decisions with my supervisor. ;)

So this is something that confuses a lot of westerners..or at least that's what I saw when i came to the U.S. They can never quite understand the typical indian "head-shake" and what it means. The American way of doing it is clear cut. A bob of the head- up and down- indicates affirmitive. A shake of the head- left to right - indicates negative. But when we indians use head-gestures to convey decisions, and often crucial ones, a lot can be lost in translation. I tried to explain to my american friends the subtle nuances that distinguish the various gestures.

There's the sliight up and down bob.. and if the eyes are closing and opening in rhythm to the slow nod, it denotes an exasperated affirmation. Does not necessarily mean I agree with you, it just means "i see what you're saying, i've heard that before, now let me speak..." When the movement is a left to right one, you've to pay attention, was that just a tilt or was it a vigorous shake?? Was the head bowed or was it straight?? Because a slight left-to-right tilt, with the head bowed, could mean a "yes"! it's the kind of nod a lot of us do to the beat of classical music, picture a typical tamilian going "aama, aama" and you see what i mean.. Now, the slow left to right tilt, in a circular, recurring fashion could denote affirmation. But a similar movement, just done once, accompanied by a smirk on the face and a "hmh" sound, is actually a nod of disapproval, or scorn. As in " hmh, chala aaya, apna naya gaadi dikhaane". A vigourous shake of the head from left to right, on the other hand, clearly conveys a NO. And then finally there's the desi-desi nod..they type we reserve for other desis when we see them at bus-stops or grocery stores, and don't really know them, but it's just a gesture of support or feeling of belonging..

My american friends couldn't quite wrap their head around all this, so to speak. Then I took them to a beautiful classical dance performance that took place on campus. The compere explained what the basic gestures in bharatnatyam conveyed, as the dancer performed them. And while my american friends loved the performance, suddenly, the great indian nod was a little more clear to them, as I observed them all nodding in agreement and applauding the performance. :-)

P.S: I discovered blogrolling! lookee lokeee ova there!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

April 15th

Sumit won't give up on me. :-) so here i am.

April 15th for the past 4 years has been a memorable date for me, a date i don't look forward to, but am really wary of as April approaches. A date always marked in red and highlighted on my calendar. And as it closes in , I begin to panic, I feel cornered, suffocated, like I have no way out..and then, helpless, I give in, and just do it!

April 15th is the last day to file taxes each year. And since I'm still a non-resident alien according to the substantial presence test, my tax forms are pretty straightforward. But they still intimidate me. Exemptions, standard deductions, tax treaties...help!!! And then the momentary terror of not locating my W2- an important piece of paper that gets mailed to us sometime in Jan... So like all hateful tasks in my life, I put it off, and keep putting it off. Until I have no choice. Then I get nightmares of being deported from the country or some such and early morning on April 15, I sit at my desk, armed with a pencil, my W2 (yippee, found it!) and a calculator and open up those ugly forms.

April 15th 2005 is still a vivid memory for me. I had already "lost" my W2 and requested for another copy earlier that week. So I'd already found a get-around to that problem and was quite happy. The morning dawns, bright and sunny, and I tell myself, I've just gotta do it now, there's no way out. The actual process is really, really, shamefully simple. So I sit down, with my chai and just get to it. We've to file federal taxes and also separately file state taxes. So I finish with my federal forms and reward myself with a break- i'm throwing a send-off party for a friend that evening, so I cook for it. Before I know it, it's time to go to lab, I've a full day of experiments planned, and those cells ain't gonna wait for no one, not even the IRS. So , you see, one's gotta do what one's gotta do. The day is busy at lab. Come evening, I realise I've to still file my state taxes. {{panic}}

I rush home, sit down with it. Make frantic phone calls to friends to confirm some of those numbers. Have to deal with "what, you've not yet done it??? aren't you having the party tonight??? how long is the post-office open?? are you SURE???? " grr. just give me the @#@ numbers already! Almost done. Apartment has to be cleaned up too, expecting company, remember? So I rush around doing that. Then rush back to the lab to take copies. About to head to the post-office- realise that all the folks i invited for the party would be there soon! And the non-desis, I'm sure, would be there dot on time, too! damn. So I go back home, leave the door unlocked, and a note that says "go on in, make yourself comfortable, gone to mail tax forms". Now, of course, they'd understand, no?

Now on April 15th each year, the US Postal Service is open until 12 midnight. yeah, i'm not the only one with the last-minute affliction, you see. Everyone is royally making use of that. And all forms postmarked before 12 midnight are legit. So, I live in a chota gaav that has 3 post-offices serving it. And there are almost never any traffic jams here- except during football season. What do i see here on this day tho? A huge line of cars, all leading towards to the one post-office that's open until midnight. I almost want to round-up all those folks and start that procrastinators-anonymous club i'd been thinking about for a while. So I patiently sit through the traffic, wait my turn in the long lines, buy the damn stamps, and post the forms finally, at 9 pm that night. Come back home to find all my friends, sitting around, joking about me and my last-minute disease. oh well, another year gone, and I won't be deported. Let the celebrations begin!

Cut back to the present. Yesterday, April 15th, 2006, early in the morning (early is relative- it was 9 AM ;) ) I drove to the lab, printed out my tax forms that i'd previously completed, and then drove to the post office. I walked up to the post-box, head held high, a smug, self-accomplished look on my face, and dropped the two envelopes in the mail box. I pirouetted around, strolled around the parking lot, actually saw people sitting in their car, awkwardly, filling out their tax forms, and my heart filled with pride. For the first time in the past five years, I have completed my tax returns way before the deadline, and even mailed them out! Do i rock or what???????????

Monday, April 10, 2006

The song behind the name

Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto's The Girl From Ipanema..

I always debated about the fact that continous music in the background might be distracting and off-putting to the readers...especially if it's not their cuppa tea..

Well, am just experimenting here, then...I don't think I'll keep this for long.

And for those who are still curious about the song, try this, specifically this

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Things that make you go hmmm..

One of the most important things we need in life are friends that make good listeners. Ever had one of those conversations, where all your friend wants to do is vent, and wants you to simply, passively, agree with him/her? Doesn't matter if the conversation turns into a monologue, your friend is not looking for reason or an intelligible debate about "the other side of the story". Doesn't matter if you've even actually been on the other side before, and therefore think you can offer valuable words of wisdom now. In this case, all you need to do is shut up, and go "hmm, hmm..sacchii???? yeah man, hmmm hmmm". Those are the only words you need to know. It's possible, that your friend's complaints are completely lop-sided, but please, give your friend the credit for being an intelligent human being, capable of acquiring a balanced world-view in good course of time. Don't get all hung up on wanting to teach your friend the realities of life, or warn your friend about things to come. For now, just go hmm...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Unforgiven

Never, ever, has purely good intention gone so horribly wrong. And now what? There's no room for an apology, no chance for forgiveness. We can keep going, trying to pretend none of this happened. Or can we?